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Igelle DSV: A New Fast Lightweight Linux

Igelle DSV Takes a Shot at Simplicity

March 4, 2010

Building a Linux distribution with the novice user in mind has been tried many times over the years. If you had to pick one area where many new users struggle, it would have to be installing new applications. Missing dependencies or improperly configured repositories lead to frustration and, ultimately, abandonment of the entire platform.

<em>Igelle desktop</em>
Igelle desktop

Some recent distributions (like Moblin and Jolicloud) have taken hints from Apple using an app store approach to let users browse and then download approved applications. This brings a familiar process (browse and download) to the novice Linux user and, hopefully, takes the guesswork of software installation out of the picture.

Igelle DSV 1.0.0 is a recently released distribution with an eye on simplicity. It focuses on a simple end-user experience and a small footprint. Minimal system requirements include a Pentium III processor or higher, 256 MB of RAM and at least 1GB of disk storage. The full distribution fits in an iso file that's slightly over 600 MB.

Up and Running

Installing Igelle DSV is similar to most standard Linux distributions requiring you to download an iso file and then burn it to CD. There are a few threads in the Igelle Forums with instructions on how to build a bootable USB key, but we chose to go the CD route, mainly because we wanted to test Igelle DSV on an older PC that doesn't support booting from USB.

To check out this distro on an older machine, we installed Igelle DSV 1.0.0 on a Compaq Evo desktop with a 1.7 GHz Pentium IV processor, 256 MB of memory and a 20 GB disk. Total time to install the basic system after booting from the CD was just under 15 minutes. There's an icon on the Live-CD desktop to install the OS to a local drive. The first time you boot the new installation you'll be prompted for a few things like machine name, local time zone, a username and password.

Just the Basics

The basic install works pretty much as advertised. For surfing the Internet there's version 2.28.1 of the GNOME Web browser. You can choose to install Firefox version 3.5.6 but need to understand the impact that can have on an older machine. Firefox, as a rule, eats up a sizeable amount of system memory, and if you're running on an older system with limited memory, you could find your browsing experience to be less than desirable. Once you install Firefox it becomes your default Web browser, and the only way to return to the GNOME Web browser (without resorting to more difficult measures) is to uninstall Firefox completely.

Igelle DSV uses a custom window manager with a Mac OS X - like launcher at the bottom of the screen and a status bar across the top. A set of default icons on the desktop opens the "My Documents" folder using PCManFM, launches the Add and Remove Applications tool, opens the All Applications browser and takes you to various Igelle Websites. The launch bar at the bottom of the screen is set to auto-hide by default, so you must drag your mouse to the bottom of the screen to make it appear. You can add new apps to the dock, but you'll have to create a symlink in a special directory (see this forum post).

The list of default applications is pretty minimal on purpose. Many of the default apps come from the GNOME desktop environment such as Evince for viewing PDF files, Gedit for text editing, and the Totem Movie Player. Most of the default applications have been selected with the minimal system requirements in mind, with others such as OpenOffice 3.1 made available for installation. One minor annoyance while reviewing this distro was the lack of a screenshot tool. We had to install the Gimp just to get that functionality.

On the down side, you'll quickly notice that Adobe Flash does not come with the basic distribution, and there's not an option in the application manager to install it so you won't be able to view videos on YouTube or any other Flash-based site. If you browse the forums, you'll see there is a way to get it working, but it takes a bit of command line magic.